ARC Book Review: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Book: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Expected Publication Is May 7, 2019 by Farrar, Straus, And Giroux|Expected Number Of Pages: 320 pages

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

I really liked Somewhere Only We Know!  I swear, Goo writes the cutest books, and this one was no exception.

I will say, it took me a while to get into it.  Jack and Lucky both narrate, and I think that’s why I had a hard time with the book at first.  It was hard to get into each character, but as the book went on, I got more settled into things, and I ended up really enjoyed the story.

It happens over a pretty short period of time, and it’s quite the adventure for both Jack and Lucky.  There really isn’t a lot of romance- it’s more hinted at than anything else, and while father-daughter relationships are pretty important in her other books, it’s not something we see in this book.  It has the same feel as her other books but it doesn’t have some of the same elements I’ve seen from her.  Still, it was really fun and really cute, and I really liked seeing them explore Hong Kong together.

The Sun Is Also A Star is a pretty good read-alike for this one, in the sense that it’s the one-day romance where they’ll never see each other again…or find each other years later as adults.  Even though we get an epilogue, and see what happens after the events of the book, part of me wonders how things worked for both Lucky and Jack.  Romantically, of course, but also in their personal lives.

As for Jack and Lucky, I really liked Lucky but I was not a fan of Jack.  I think having his perspective really hurt, because we see and know things Lucky does not.  It made it really hard to like him and even though we see him change, it was really hard to get behind it knowing what we, as readers, know.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and it’s a cute book.  I wasn’t a fan of Jack, but I really liked Lucky.  I also wish I had more to say about this book, but I don’t.  It’s definitely worth reading, especially if you like K-Pop.

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ARC Book Review: A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Book: A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Published January 2019 by Bloomsbury YA|489 pages

Where I Got It: I got an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: A Curse So Dark And Lonely #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

Fall in love, break the curse. 

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. 

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

I was really intrigued by this book when I saw it on Netgalley, and I knew I had to request it.  Unfortunately, it was just okay for me, and I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

I had a really hard time getting into it, especially at the beginning.  It was about a quarter of the way in that I started to like the story a little more.  The dual POV didn’t work for me, and it was hard to tell who was narrating because Rhen and Harper’s chapters were really similar, and they sounded pretty much the same to me.  I could only read a few chapters at a time before needing to put it down.  I just really struggled with it.

I think a lot of my struggles with A Curse So Dark And Lonely come from me being bored.  I really liked the idea of a modern day re-telling where Belle ends up in a magical land to break the curse.  It just took a while to get there.  I couldn’t completely root for Rhen and Harper, and I felt like they had no chemistry.  I had a hard time with the fact that they basically abducted girls, hoping they would be the one to break the curse.  And for a while, it seemed like she would end up falling for Grey.  I was surprised it didn’t go that way.

Speaking of Grey, I was surprised by everything that happened with him at the end of the book.  I know there’s a sequel, and while I don’t think I’ll pick it up, I am curious to see where things go for him.  It’s strange, because this book read like a stand-alone, but with how things ended, there is room for more story.

I wish we had more of Harper’s life before Emberfall.  All we really know about her is that her mom’s dying of cancer, her dad’s not in the picture, and her brother has taken up her dad’s work because of the debt he left them in.  I honestly couldn’t tell you anything else about her and her life.  Still, it was interesting to see her get settled into life at Emberfall.

It did get a lot more exciting at the end, and it was nice to actually have some action, as opposed to all of the traveling that happens in the book.  I don’t mind a bit of traveling but I needed something to break it up a little bit.  It was too bad we didn’t get more of it throughout the rest of the book.

2 stars.  I liked Grey, and Harper was a really thoughtful, kind character but I really struggled to get through it.  It’s a cool take on Beauty And The Beast, though.

ARC Book Review: White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Book: White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Published January 2018 by Wednesday Books|368 pages

Where I Got: I got an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: Permafrost #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

White Stag, the first book in a brutally stunning series by Kara Barbieri, involves a young girl who finds herself becoming more monster than human and must uncover dangerous truths about who she is and the place that has become her home. 

A Wattpad break out star with over a million reads! Now expanded, revised and available in print and eBook.

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.

When I saw this book on netgalley, I was intrigued enough to request it.  The cover is beautiful but unfortunately, I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted to.

One of the things I didn’t like was how bored I was.  The world didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and it’s not really clear how the humans and goblins came to be.  The Stag and it’s importance to the Goblin King wasn’t clear, and the hunt didn’t make a lot of sense.  It’s an interesting idea, but I just needed more details.

The mythology was a little odd to me.  It seemed like a mix of different mythologies, which could have been cool but didn’t work because it made things more confusing than they should have been.  It felt like the goblins weren’t really goblins- they felt more like faeries to me than actual goblins.

The book was also pretty forgettable and even though I finished the book pretty recently, I also couldn’t tell you most of what happens in the book.  It felt like a blur, and I think I kept reading in the hopes I would end up liking it more.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and while I can see why people really like it, I just needed more from it.

I also wish I had more to say about White Stag, but I really don’t.  Unless I want to start repeating myself, of course.

1 star.  The cover is beautiful and I liked the premise of the book.  But I was bored, and thought there needed to be more world-building.  We get too little about the world, and what we do get is too confusing.

ARC Book Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Book: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Published February 2017 by Del Ray|368 Pages

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: Dark Gifts #1

Genre: YA Alternate History/Fantasy

A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke

NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

I remember hearing about this book and being so excited about it.  It’s an alternate London, where commoners are basically slaves for 10 years to those in power.  It seemed up my alley, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.  And for some reason, I never got around to reviewing this book, and since I was looking forward to it, I did want to talk about it.

It was really hard for me to get into, and I don’t know that I’m interested enough to keep going with the series. The origin of slave days seemed really confusing, and not explained very well.  It’s the same with the origin of those with skill, and for the life of me, I cannot remember how it started.  It just didn’t seem like the world was explained- you were immersed in the world, which was different, but I found myself wondering what the history was, and I hate that whatever was explained isn’t sticking.

I do wonder when it’s supposed to take place- there were times when it felt like the technology was modern enough, but at the same time, it felt like an alternate Victorian London.  I did like that, the alternate Victorian London feel, and now that I think about it, it is sort of a steampunk London, which worked pretty well with the concept of a slaveday.

Still, I feel like this book is another book in the wave of books where the upper class has powers that the lower class doesn’t have (or isn’t supposed to have, but does).  Maybe I’m just jaded about this type of book already, but for me, there are better books in this genre to read.  Maybe if I had read this book before some of the other similar books out there, I would have felt differently.  Or maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.  Either way, it’s not for me, but maybe you’ll like it.

2 stars.  For me, this one was okay, and I don’t know if I’ll be continuing the series.

ARC Book Review: Black, White, Other And A Girl Named Mister

black-white-otherBook #1: Black, White, Other by Joan Steinau Lester

Published January 2017 by Blink|225 pages

Where I Got It: I received this book as an e-arc from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Identity Crisis.  

As a biracial teen, Nina is accustomed to a life of varied hues—mocha-colored skin, ringed brown hair streaked with red, a darker brother, a black father, a white mother. When her parents decide to divorce, the rainbow of Nina’s existence is reduced to a much starker reality. Shifting definitions and relationships are playing out all around her, and new boxes and lines seem to be getting drawn every day.

Between the fractures within her family and the racial tensions splintering her hometown, Nina feels caught in perpetual battle. Feeling stranded in the nowhere land between racial boundaries, and struggling for personal independence and identity, Nina turns to the story of her great-great-grandmother’s escape from slavery. Is there direction in the tale of her ancestor? Can Nina build her own compass when landmarks from her childhood stop guiding the way?

Rating/Review: 2 stars.  It was okay for me, and I wanted to like it, but I had a hard time with it.  I found myself skimming through the part where she’s reading about her relative.  I liked the present-day story a little bit more, and the message was really obvious- but it’s also really important.  She really does struggle to fit in, and you see how much things change her and how she feels caught in the middle on so many different levels.  I did really like seeing the relationship with one of her friends and her reaction to Nina hanging out with other people.  I think it’s something we can all relate to, feeling like we don’t fit in, but I feel like I understand Nina a little better.

a-girl-named-mister-coverBook #2: A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes

Published January 2017 by Blink|233 pages

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

What It’s About: Nikki Grimes, a bestselling author known for titles such as Dark Sons, Barak Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope, and Voices of Christmas has written a gripping book from the perspective of a girl named Mister (Mary Rudine) who finds herself momentarily distracted from her faith commitment to purity by a handsome boy named Trey. After one night of weakness, Mister finds her entire life has changed, even if she can’t yet accept all the changes occurring within her are real. When the emotional scars of losing her innocence are more lasting than she imagined, Mister turns to a book of her mother’s, which contains poems from Mary’s perspective. As both Mister and Mary’s voices play out in the story, a full and meaningful portrait of Christian faith, trust, and forgiveness emerges, along with the truth that God can use even the most unplanned events in our lives for his greater glory.

Rating & Review: 2 stars.  This one was okay for me.  It was a quick read, which I think is because the entire book is told in verse.  It was okay, but sometimes it felt like things were broken up to give the appearance of poetry, because there were times where it didn’t feel like I was reading poetry.  Then again, I don’t read a lot of novels told in verse, so maybe unfamiliarity is where my problem lies.  There is a whole diary feel to the book that didn’t quite work for me.  The comparison to Mary, Jesus’ mother, did not work for me at all, and I felt like the comparison was trying to compare apples and oranges.  I’m also not sure what the book was going for abstinence, maybe?  That’s the impression I got.  I’m also not quite clear on who the book is actually meant for- definitely not me, but maybe a teen who’s questioning her faith is the target audience for this?  The ending was also abrupt and left a lot of questions.

ARC Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken CoverBook: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Expected Publication is June 28, 2016 by Delacorte Press|Expected Number Of Pages: 496

Where I Got It: I got a digital ARC from netgalley.com in exchanged for a fair and honest review

Series: The Conqueror’s Saga #1

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Alternate History

Blog Graphic-What It's About

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

And I Darken is such a cool book!  I don’t even know where to begin…this book just pulls you in, and you can’t stop reading until you’re actually done with the book!

What I like the most about And I Darken is that it has an alternate history feel to it, which I think is why some people tagged it as fantasy.  Even though there are no fantasy elements in And I Darken, it does have a fantasy feel to it. And who knows, it might become more of a fantasy later on in the series!

It was a lot more political than I expected- not in a bad way, because you really see the politics of the time.  It’s definitely based on history- Dracula is a teenage girl in this book- but I’m not completely sure how historically accurate it is.  Either way, you really get a good feel for what it might have been like when Lada was alive.

Speaking of Lada, she is resilient, cold and calculating.  She knows what her role is in this world, and she doesn’t want to play along.  And it was really interesting to see, because Lada struggles with Lada’s dislike of women and her feelings on her own femininity.  Yet she comes to realize that power comes in a lot of different forms and women have their own power, though it might be different than the power that the men in their world have.

Her relationship with her brother is really different than what we see in a lot of YA.  Her brother, Radu, is a lot more delicate than Lada, and that both frustrates her and draws out a protectiveness she has for her brother. They are everything that the other is not, and it makes for an interesting relationship between them.

We also see both Christianity and Islam explored, but it’s done in a way that’s not preachy.  And we Islam presented in a way that’s not judgmental, which is really refreshing, because it easily could have gone in that direction. Instead, it’s seen as a religion in it’s own right, and it’s not seen as good or bad…it just is.  There’s something very neutral about how religion is presented in this book, and I really like that.

As for Mehmed: both Lada and Radu think about him a lot.  He does change their lives, and we see how much he changes their relationship.  I think I’m just going to leave it at that, because I’m not completely sure how I feel about Mehmed.

As much as I liked this book, it did feel dense, and partly why it took me a while to get through it was because I needed to take random breaks to let everything sink in.  And Lada, Radu and Mehmed seemed so young to be in the positions they were in.  I really forgot that they were around 14 or 15 at the end of the book, and even though it probably wasn’t unusual for that time period, it still seems so foreign.  Then again, I think a re-read is in order, because there’s so much in this book that I’m sure I’ll see some things I missed the first time around.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I really liked it, and I love the take on Dracula!  I can’t wait to read the next book.